About a dozen years ago one of my brothers sent me a birthday card that said “Forget about the past, because you can’t change it. Forget about the future, because you can’t predict it. Forget about the present, because I didn’t get you one.” As much as it was intended to be a joke (except for the part about the present, he really didn’t get me one), it is actually pretty epic advice and took me more than a decade to appreciate.
My recovery journey started about a year ago. Well… that’s not totally true. In retrospect, I guess it actually started about 2 years ago, when a friend told me about her own struggle with food and gave me some books on the subject, but I wasn’t ready to hear it yet and didn’t read the books until much later. Anyway, about a year ago my life felt like it was totally out of control. Aside from pressures at home and work, one of my brothers nearly died in an accident and the way my parents handled–or more specifically didn’t handle–the situation, brought up a lot of old hurt and anger for me.
I had abused food throughout most of my life, but in the past I had always been able to reign it in after the pain and frustration had sufficiently been numbed and packed away. In the past, before I had any awareness of the connection to past and present feelings and what I was actually doing through the food and other behaviors, I was always able to get back to a point of steadiness and “self control”/suppression. But not this time. Something had snapped and I just couldn’t let it go anymore.
I. Just. Couldn’t.
So, I sought out a therapist and started poking the bear… errr… getting to the bottom of my anger. More on this subject later. For now the purpose of this story is that I told my story. For the first time, really. Then we moved 3+ months ago, I found a new therapist and I told my story again. And then I started looking into an intensive out patient program for eating disorders and I told my story AGAIN. And every time I told the story again, I felt like it had less of a hold on me. The tears didn’t come as quickly or as often. The anger didn’t take over, to the point that I couldn’t remember the words that had just passed through my lips. For the first time in my life, I was showing up and caring for myself.
For the first time in my life, I have found my voice and acknowledged my past, without believing it will control my future. As much as I still want to be angry, defensive, vengeful, I am realizing that I have learned too much to go down that path any longer. I still have a long way to go before being able to *forgive* my parents, but I no longer blame them for who they are and how they treated us. I am starting to understand that they were doing the best they knew how and were too wrapped up in their own issues (without getting help) to realize how it was affecting their children.
Even more importantly than that, I am no longer willing to take responsibility for their treatment of me. There was nothing wrong with ME. My whole life, I have been correcting a course that was never off to begin with. I realize that I have been reacting to the past as if I could protect myself from things that have already happened, and by living in that past, trying to change it, I have been letting it control me. If you let the past control you, you will ALWAYS be a victim, because the past cannot be changed. You can only control how you act in the present moment and move forward.
This goes for everything in life. You can’t change what has happened in the past. You didn’t get the job you wanted. You had a bad break up. You lost a loved one. You can be sad, and you hold a place in your heart to mourn and honor the memories and lessons from your past, but as long as you keep LIVING IN the sadness and the loss, you will never be able to move forward and find new happiness. It is not fair to your current life, with everything and everyone in it, to keep living and reliving a moment that no longer exists and can no longer be changed.
Until you let go of the pain and the anger of the past and start living in the present with a hope/dream for the future, you will never be in control of YOUR JOY and YOUR DESTINY. Once you realize that your old habits and reactions are no longer serving you, you can let them go and begin to shine bright.